Epidemic-prone infectious diseases pose a serious public health threat in many countries and the risk of the spread has increased due to global travel and trade. Hemorrhagic fever viruses like Lassa Virus, Yellow Fever Virus, Rift Valley Fever Virus, Marburg Virus, and Ebola Virus, which belong to the high and highest risk groups 3 and 4, are either endemic or frequently cause epidemic outbreaks in parts of Sub-Saharan Africa. These outbreaks pose serious challenges to local health services and international organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO), Médecins Sans Frontièrs (MSF) and the international scientific community. Most important of all, these infections may have high lethality rates, patients suffering from these infections take long time to recover, and communities may be left devastated by them.
The European Commission`s Directorate General for Development and Cooperation (DG-DevCo) has set up the collaborative project "Establishment of Mobile Laboratories up to Risk Group 4 in Combination with CBRN Capacity Building in Sub-Saharan Africa" (Project reference: IFS 2011/272-372). The project lasted four years (2011 – 2015) and established field deployable laboratory capacity and trained scientists and technicians in Europe and Africa to respond to infectious disease outbreaks and it strengthened the collaboration between scientists on both continents.
On an international level, there are strategies in place to respond to infectious disease outbreaks and response is coordinated through WHO’s Global Alert Outbreak and Response Network (GOARN) and WHO`s Emerging and Dangerous Pathogens Laboratory Network (EDPLN). Under GOARN’s and EDPLN`s framework technical and human resources are coordinated to bring together the highest level of international expertise to tackle these outbreaks. The European Commission (DG-ECHO) has established the European Medical Corps (EMC) in 2016 as part of the voluntary pool of assets in the Union Civil Protection Mechanism (UCPM) taking into account the experience of the West-African Ebola Virus outbreak 2013 – 2016.